Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=210033
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Stephanie Sunata/MEDILL

Ashley Byrd, left, tries to sign in to vote with Deborah Hamilton at 1 S. Franklin St.  She had a letter that said she should vote at this location, but she was sent to another place.  Volunteers at the polling place said this was common this year because of state redistricting.


Chicago's election site malfunctions, stranding voters

by Stephanie Sunata
Nov 06, 2012


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Stephanie Sunata/MEDILL

Matthew Andersen fills out his ballot in Chicago. He said he used the city elections website without difficulty Tuesday afternoon. Many others said they couldn't find their polling stations when the city's site malfunctioned Tuesday morning. 

Chicago voters ran into a technology brick wall Tuesday morning when the city’s polling station website malfunctioned, stranding voters who tried to log on and find their polling place. 

Tuesday morning, Chicago voters who tried to sign on at chicagoelections.com ran into error messages and couldn’t find where they should vote. Voters were redirected to a state site that was functioning properly and city site operations were restored later in the day.

Loop resident Enrique Santiago was going to use the site in the morning, he said, but didn’t even try to after he heard there were problems with this system.

He used flyers that were posted in common areas of his apartment complex to find out where to vote, Santiago said.

Not everyone’s apartment had flyers. Some tried to use the website, but to no avail, according to some voters who left the 1 S. Franklin St. polling station.

Streeterville resident Jeff Verde, an associate with a downtown investment firm, said a coworker told him about the site, and he tried it this morning. He filled out the log on boxes with his name and zip code, but got an error message.

The error could have resulted because his name was misspelled on his voter registration, he said, but his co-worker also ran into problems when she tried to log in.

Verde tried to vote at the Franklin Street poll downtown during a break from work but found out he couldn't vote there. He said he didn’t know he could only vote at the site that serves his neighborhood.

After all the problems, he said he doesn’t think he can make it to the polls before they close at 7 p.m.

“One of the candidates probably lost my vote because of this issue,” Verde said.

Some people got on the site later in the day. Matthew Andersen said he went to the URL around 12:30 p.m. and it worked after he hit the refresh button. But the website directed some Voters to the wrong polling place.

Poll volunteer Brandi Schiff got said about 50 percent of the people who came to the Franklin Street voting station were in the wrong place.

The confusion was partially due to the state redistricting that took into effect this election cycle. A few people said they used the online city system and it erroneously told them to go to Franklin Street poll, Schiff said.

When someone was in the wrong spot, Schiff called the Chicago election center to find the correct place. 

She said it was important to do this because she doesn’t want location mix-ups to discourage people from voting.

Many times, each call involved five or six voters and one polling station had 15 people in line who needed to go to a different location, Schiff said.

Those who ran into problems said the site never loaded or an error message would pop up that read “Service Unavailable.”

During the malfunction, the Chicago site redirected to the state elections site, which was working properly, said Rupert Borgsmiller, executive director of the State Board of Elections.